Monday, February 26, 2007

Crossword Puzzle Players Sought

Hey kids, are you like me, do you like to do the Sunday crossword puzzle? Unlike me, are you occasionally able to finish one? If so, and if you would like a chance to be interviewed for a newspaper article, please contact me through my Web site at

Serious inquiries preferred; subjects may be asked to demonstrate their crossword prowess. Fanaticism a plus. Referrals are appreciated.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bordering on Prolificacy*

I don’t see many movies in the theatre so I’m usually a year behind at Oscar time. But here’s what I do know about this year’s competition. Maggie Gylelehyaleonl (sic, I think) should have been nominated for her performance in Sherrybaby. I didn’t like the ending to the Departed, Scorsese went a little heavy with the execution-style killings, but overall it was good. I went into my viewing of Little Miss Sunshine with too high of expectations and was somewhat disappointed. Although they didn’t distinguish themselves in any performances this past year, I hope the show’s producers have the good sense to include a special tribute, including a 15-minute video montage, to the two finest actresses of all time:


I won’t speculate on what events may have lead to the demise of Brian and Kellie in the morning, although it’s clear that Dave wields a powerful and vengeful sword when crossed. There’s a pretty impressive display of support for the delightful couple over in the comments section of the SJ-R’s report of their ouster. I’m puzzled, however, by those who said how funny the two morning hosts were. Based on what I had heard while passing through the dial, Brian and Kellie were funny in the same way that Oprah is funny, which is not very. Affable and pleasant for sure. Good-humoured, but not really humorous. I think that we humans have the ability to detect when somebody is trying to be funny and for some of us, that’s good enough to let go with a chuckle.

I shed no tears for the chief, mostly because I’m not an Illini fan. If it really is offensive to those who might legitimately be offended, then I suppose it’s for the best. Just don’t claim, as the NCAA does, that the way the chief depicted Indian culture was “hostile and abusive.” You can be insensitive, even prejudice, and not really mean to be. But to rise to the level of hostile and abusive, intent to inflict harm is required. And I don’t think anyone could argue that the school was purposely trying to demean Indians.

Bona fide bloggers spat upon their bogus brethren who use their blogs as a marketing tool, especially if they’re trying to entice readers to join them in being swindled in a Ponzi scheme. It’s true that I will occasionally pitch my freelance writing services here, but I don’t claim that hiring me will promote weight loss, provide financial independence, or enhance “intimacy” in the bedroom. Although, I’m not certain that won’t be the case either. So if you or someone you know is in need of any type of business or editorial copy, click on the little ad to the right and soon you’ll be living the life you’ve always dreamed of.

My favorite line of the week comes from Stephen Metcalf, writing for If you like the Police, but find Sting to be a bit of a wanker and think his solo work is perfect background music for people who do pottery while mourning the loss of their boyfriend, Patrick Swayze, then you should appreciate this:

Copeland, who founded the band and whose intricately manic polyrhythms define
its sound, prevented Sting from impressing too much of his character on its
music. Unyoked from Copeland, Sting was free to become what he is today:
one-third spirit in the material world, two-thirds scented candle.

I really wish I’d come up that line. I bet Brian and Kellie’s fans wouldn’t find it funny.

*This is the second post this week. Damn impressive.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hey, look! I posted something on my blog.

Who is Larry Washington? Is he an honest citizen, a former gang member who has gone straight but is now being unfairly targeted by police? Or is he a still-active drug dealer who dabbles in arson and abusing women?

If you read the Illinois Times, you’re more likely to believe the former. If you’re an SJ-R subscriber, you probably lean towards the shady version. And if you read both, you’re probably confused how two articles on the same subject and published a mere three days apart could paint such a different picture of the same individual.

Let me say that the only thing I know about Washington is from what I read from the two stories. I don’t have any insider information and I’ve never discussed his story with any one who has or claims to have any down low. Let me also say that I believe that both stories are factually correct. So the discrepancy arises from how the facts are presented, what facts are left out, and what facts are simply not known.

It would be pointless for me, and probably for most of you, to speculate on which story more accurately portrays Mr. Washington’s character. But what I do think we are qualified to discuss is whether the two media outlets have a responsibility to the citizens that they both serve to follow-up on their stories based on what the other has written.

For instance, the IT uses the word “fire” five times in its article, three of them in reference to former SPD detectives, but it does not mention the suspicious fires that Washington has been linked to in various ways. It also doesn’t mention the accusations of abuse from former girlfriends. Perhaps the IT investigated these aspects of his story and decided that they lacked merit and would unfairly taint him. But if this is the case, should they now publicly report this, knowing that many of their readers also read the SJ-R?

The SJ-R doesn’t quote Alderman McNeil or any of the other sources who vouched for Washington’s character in the IT article. Should they now seek comment from them?

I realize that we are talking about two different stories, even though the subject of each is the same. The IT story focused on the possibility that Washington was set up in a drug bust. The SJ-R story focused on the suspicious fires that may be linked to him. The reporting doesn’t contradict each other.

But in my reading of the stories, I did get the impression, a vibe if you will, that I was supposed to feel a certain way about Washington. And these vibes did contradict. The IT seemed to want me to pity him as a victim of a roguish police force. The SJ-R seemed to want me to be outraged that a convicted felon was getting away with more crimes. I can’t say if it was the reporters’ intentions to elicit these emotions, but I doubt that I am alone in forming these impressions.

This isn’t really that uncommon of an occurrence. If you read the New York Times you’ll get a decidedly different impression of how the president is performing than you would if you read the Washington Times. Even if you skip the editorials and columnists and stick to the fact-based reporting, there is still an editorial opinion being communicated.

What makes the Washington stories interesting is that you would think that the question of whether a local man, who isn’t surrounded by consultants and PR hacks, is flouting the law or is being persecuted by law enforcement would by less subjective. I’m not criticizing either story; I just want to know what to think

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Take your hat off, when you’re talking to me and be there when I feed the blog*

As it was so aptly, and anonymously, suggested in the comments section, this blog is getting moldy. I can assure you that my lack of production isn’t because I’ve taken up some nefarious activities such as joining the Roman Cultural Society.

I recognize that a blog must be fed regularly if it is to remain healthy and vibrant. But I decided early on that I would not tide BFS over by stuffing it with junk food or tossing it tiny morsels unfit for consumption. If I lacked the resources to serve BFS a hearty and satisfying offering, then it would just have to go hungry. And here, the food analogy thankfully comes to a close.

It would be a shame, however, to see BFS whither away from malnutrition (the analogy returns), so I will offer you a little something to chew on until something more substantial can be prepared.

I was chatting with an old friend last night. He is a fellow at the Morgue Institute, a privately-funded think tank that was founded on the campus of Quincy College in the late 80s. We discussed the last BFS post on education and intelligence. He suggested an analogy that I found quite apt despite the fact that it didn’t have anything to do with nutrition or sustenance.

His analogy compared intelligence with athleticism. Both require training to maximize their potential, but that potential is also limited by our innate abilities, or lack thereof.

For example, I could have spent every minute that I devoted as a youth to collecting Wizard of Oz memorabilia and instead spent that time at the Nelson Center and I still wouldn’t have risen to the level of the incomparable Brian Boitano.

So if it is foolish to train every child for a career in professional sports, and I think that we can agree that it is, is it not also foolish to send each child down an educational path designed to go through college and into a white collar career?

That’s not to say that education can’t be beneficial to every child, but that there is a point where the complexity of the subject matter surpasses some people’s ability to comprehend it. There’s a reason I haven’t pursued my doctorate in molecular immunology and it’s not because I’m not drawn to their lifestyle, what with the bling and the Benjamins and what not. I’m simply not smart enough to grasp the intricacies of fungal toxins.

Or am I selling myself short? If I had grown up idolizing Dr. Janko Nikolich-Zugich instead of Judy Garland**, would my passion for antigen/antibody interaction have propelled me to the upper echelons of scholarship in the field of biology? Or would my dreams of Nobel prizes been crushed under a pile of incomprehensible physicochemical properties?

I guess we’ll never know for sure. I’ve often thought that the only thing that stood between me and a lucrative career as a physician was that I have a lousy memory. I could probably hack med school, but it would take me twice the allowed time to graduate. And no one wants to see a doctor who’s slow on the take.

But what about you? Do you believe that your mind is infinitely capable of deciphering even the most complex of subjects? Or have you come to concede some cognitive shortcomings? Your thoughtful and lengthy comments will help to keep BFS from going hungry.

*Tanya Donelly’s all right!

**I’m not sure why the idolization of Judy Garland is funny. It just is. If you don’t believe me, check out the movie After Hours sometime.